Man paralysed after neck collar removed too soon

NHS Fife
NHS Fife

NHS Fife has issued an apology to a man who ended up paralysed after doctors removed his neck collar too soon during his treatment.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman launched an inquiry after the patient’s wife made a complaint about his treatment in an unnamed Fife hospital. The case came to light in a report published recently by the ombudsman which upheld the complaint.

The report refers to the patient as Mr C and it is not known if he has since regained the use of his legs.

It reveals the patient arrived at the accident and emergency department of the NHS Fife hospital with his neck in a collar after falling down a flight of stairs.

It was noted at that time Mr C had movement in both his arms and legs with sensation in all his limbs. He had a scan which showed no acute fracture or bleeding but it was stated there had been problems with Mr C co-operating during his examination.

Doctors, however, agreed it was safe enough to remove his collar.

But the next day his condition worsened and when he woke up paralysed, he was rushed to another hospital for immediate treatment.

Mr C’s wife complained that given the nature of his accident, her husband should have been kept immobile and given a full spinal scan.

She also told the Ombudsman she thought proper tests were not carried out to determine the full extent of her husband’s injuries and that he should have been taken straight away to a specialist unit.

Upholding the complaint, the Ombudsman stated: “We carefully considered all the relevant information, including all the complaints correspondence and Mr C’s medical records. We also obtained independent advice from a consultant in emergency medicine and took this into account.

“Although Mr C was immediately immobilised on his admission to A&E, his neck collar was removed despite recorded difficulties in completing an assessment.” It went on to say: “Mr C should have remained in the collar until he was determined to be neurologically normal and could have been properly assessed.”

But the Ombudsman rejected the other complaints, it said: “Our investigation found that all appropriate tests were carried out to establish the extent of his injuries and that the proper protocol was followed in transferring him to another hospital, rather than to a specialist unit.”

The Ombudsman recommended NHS Fife apologise to Mr C for removing the collar before he was confirmed to be neurologically normal. It also recommended appropriate steps be taken to satisfy themselves that advanced trauma life support guidelines are fully complied with. Dr Scott McLean, NHS Fife director of nursing, said: “I would like to reiterate our apologies to Mrs C and note the Ombudsman’s comments that NHS Fife has taken action to prevent a repeat occurrence.”